There are some very good, and more obvious reasons why the tap on the shoulder method of recruitment works. It has been used since the begiining and will continue to be used in the future.  It works.  Why?  Apart from the obvious i.e the avoidance of "walk in's" which therefore eliminates the prospects of a double agent entering the organisation, there are less obvious, more subtle (less Policitcally Correct) benefits.  We recently wrote about the "Buddhist Spy" and highlighted how removing temptation from an Intelligence (or Operational) Officer as well as an Agent, was often critical in aiding autonomy in the field, as well as trust.  The process of targeting an asset for recrutiment is of course completley different and conducted by entirely different people compared to those involved in the more 'vanilla' graduate recrutiment campaigns.  That said, there are some cross-overs.  There are also some serious deficiencies and limitations to the more exclusionary Oxbridge focussed pool of candidates.  In essence there is no one way.  There are lots of types needed to fit into an organisation like MI6 or MI5, and representatives from all walks of life and parts of society will be included.  The days of Kim Philby certainly highlighted how 6 can get caught with their draws down in Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed they some cases literally.  Things probably have not changed that much and there will still be the ususal contingent of 'Russian Reps' walking the cobbled paths of Trinity.  It all depends on the job in hand.  A diplomat respresenting the FCO in Brussels has to know how to hold a fork after all, and shoot the breeze in a number of topics.  By the same token, an agent or operational officer might have precise local knowledge of negotiating a fair rate at a Warsaw brothel or bottle of Wyborowa, or how to lap dance for a visiting Easten dignitary.  All visions from a Le Carre novel of course, but you get the point.  It takes all sorts.  St Andrews and Oxford (generally) offer a middle class elite who might have the family treasure chest to fall back on, so short term financial gain may not be foremost in their minds.  They might be used to discipline and harsh treatment but no more so than the teenage street smart facebook manipulator who has lived a little.  So, what is the key draw to the tap on the shoulder? 


The two things any Intelligence Service values very highly, Control and Trust.  It gives the organisation control of the process and is therefore more likley to facilitate trust.  In this writers view, paranoia and a deep basic level of mistrust are fundamental and desired attributes in this profession.  What people consider the 'norm' and healthy in everyday life, may have no place in the IC (or atleast certain parts of it).  Taking the topic 'off piste' slightly, some might say the best field agents are slightly mad (methodically mad) highly creative (preferably left handers), magnets for pressure, highly manipulative (exceptionally important and a characteristic too often critisised in people), alone, resourceful,possibly on the spectrum, and have a knack of seeing things others do not.  An intelligence officer on the other hand, straight from University is a different animal.  That person may not have drink Vodka out of punnets with a Ukrainian Assassin on farms in the Urals, but his job means he will probably find the right person who has.  Finding someone who has the skills to work in both roles would however be, apart from unusual, very useful (ahem). The word 'recruitment' means completely different things in different departments.  For example, there are a myriad of situations and scenarios when it comes to targeting and recruiting an asset, especially one where they are being asked to provide information about their own organisation or government.  There are literally dozens of methods used and it is highly experienced Intelligence Officers and their teams who are responsible for turning or manipulating an asset. 


Essentially it is still recruitment, but a far cry from the milkrounds around University campuses.  Being in an operation can often require skills generally more associated with a con man or fraudster, especially where a cover is being maintained.  However, the point man (or woman) in this case has a huge supporting army of highly trained, professional staff back at Section 6.  Without each other, and without faith in each others skills, they simply would not be effective.  And don't think that these operatives and teams within the hierachy are simply focussed on terrorist organisations.  Certainly in the nineties, most of the larger City trading floors had one or two MI5 recruits on stand by.  The 'territorial army' equivalent of Intelligence staff if you will.  IN the eighites of course htere were the Unions, more recently officers can be found in numerous Government bodies such as HMRC or the Financial Conduct Authority.  The reach in endless and always meticulously planned.  Going back to the role of an IO, you will be required to demonstrate those skills also associated with typical management positions as well as desired traits such as lateral thinking, risk assessment or specific technical knowledge.  As a payroll employee you will have to jump through the HR hoops to a larger extent nowadays than pre-1996.  Everyone is accountable of course.  If you see a career in the business and maybe eventually within the private intelligence arena, then this will be the path for you.  Later in the 'Recruitment' sections we will highlight some well known and not so well known methods of recruting assets.  In our view the success and consistency of any intelligence service is fundamentally down to recruitment, specifically targeting and using human assets to deliver precise and valued intelligence.  If they cannot be found, or cannot be converted or recrutied, then the whole organisation will suffer.  So, being recrutied for a role in recrutiment within MI6 is an extremely important function.  And of course, exciting and rewarding beyond many conventional professions.

Intelligence Reports

14 April 2020

After AI comes Quantum AI...and then what?

When Google's Sycamore effectively moved us to the next step in AI it will become one of those defining moments...but how will Quantum Artificial Intelligence affect the Intelligence World?

21 March 2020

Neurodiversity & ASD within the Secret Intelligence Services

Some have gone as far as to say that the 'diverse' represent the next step in the evolutionary process.  Maybe.  But, ignore the Neurodiverse at your peril!

12 May 2020

A Government Department of Virus Safety

A Government run, uniform and credible safety certificate to be used across the board, would benefit UK business greatly.

Wuhan conspiracy theories aside, diplomatic traction is the reward.


A week or two ago we wrote an article "Conspiracies & Ripples" which focused primarily on conspiracy theories and kicked off with the rather obvious statement that a conspiracy theory is simply a theory without the facts i.e. just a theory.  Within that we highlighted that ‘flavour of the month’ theorist’s delight, the origins of the Coronavirus and its links to Wuhan.  This echoed our views published in February which, as many did, ponder the chances of this remote coincidence maybe actually being true.  Since then there have been swathes of articles on the topic citing all sort of sources and from numerous ‘renowned’ scientists.  We have also recently had the opinions offered by those whose opinions really count, that this virus originating from the labs in Wuhan may not actually be so far-fetched after all.

We do tend to agree, or at least we did.  That was then and this is now and in the world of Politics things move quickly and one does have to look at the reality of the situation.  If there is enough fog between you and your destination, then sometimes the route you take can change, leaving you all sorts of options.  If the objective was originally to circumnavigate through uncertain waters to establish who, what, why and when the virus came about – then that is now lost in the fog.  It is arbitrary.  Now we have something that is far more concrete and tangible to use to our advantage – we have uncertainty.  We now have enough debate and conspiracy to render the findings of the scientists open to interpretation.  And that… is a diplomat’s dream come true.   This particular carcass will feed many and although the WHO will go in, on the ground, and no doubt find yet more uncertainty…it really is irrelevant.  You will certainly not find individual government’s chomping at the bit to send their representatives into Wuhan anytime soon, and even if they did, why?  Wuhan is not some sleepy suburb in leafy Northamptonshire… it is in China.  Whatever was there has long gone, if indeed it was ever even there.  So perhaps it would be wise to assume that at least for the next few decades this is a conspiracy that will never find out those salient facts. 

Now, listening to the scientists, there is an overwhelming urge to say, “shush now”.  Step back ladies and gentlemen and look at the bigger picture at play.  Nobody is actually interested whether or not the virus started in Wuhan, intentionally or not.  As long as it is open to debate, it is far more valuable.  The scientists have debated at length and argued, but there is still no unequivocal proof either way that satisfies all parties…and why could that be?  Scientific fact is not open to debate or questioning, that is a given.  However, to say Science is correct, is not true.  That is because Science has Scientists, and Scientists are human beings who in turn are fallible and motivated by many many other factors.  In China for example, one might say that scientific fact is exactly what they want it to be.  Indeed, who is to say it ends in China.


So why is uncertainty such a blessing in this case?  It provides an additional bargaining chip and a weapon in the armoury for all Governments to now use against the Chinese.  Maybe on the other side of the fence their own initial conspiracy theory that a foreign Government (the US) planted the virus in their midst, is being written about in their own press.  Or maybe not. The fact is it is a safe bet to assume that no body will ever know.  There will be no compensations or admissions of guilt in this case sadly…however the capillaceous network that is politics, diplomacy and economic negotiations will be the real beneficiaries.


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